Those of you familiar with the HandyDART file will be aware of the fact that a few years ago TransLink awarded this very important contract to a for-profit, privately owned American company based in Dallas, Texas. Users and workers have been complaining about the quality of service ever since.
A group I’m with, the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, has been lobbying TransLink for quite some time to take a fresh, hard look at the pros and cons of HandyDART service being contracted out. TransLink does not contract out any of its other operations. It operates them through wholly owned subsidiaries — Coast Mountain Bus Company operates the SeaBus and almost all of the region’s buses; British Columbia Rapid Transit Company operates two of the three SkyTrain lines and the West Coast Express. HandyDART should be in-house as well.
A month ago I made a presentation to the TransLink board. It included three proposals:
- TransLink conduct something called a public sector comparator. This is when government conducts an analysis to determine whether or not a particular service is best contracted out.
- If HandyDART is put out to tender again, that TransLink’s procurement department amend the RFP (Request for Proposal) to make it a requirement that bidders indicate in their bid how, if awarded the contract, they will ensure meaningful and substantive input from the users and workers.
- That if TransLink insists on putting this service out to tender again when the current contract ends, that TransLink create a wholly owned HandyDART subsidiary and that this subsidiary submit a bid to TransLink’s procurement department.
Recently, I was very pleased to receive a totally unsolicited call from TransLink’s new CEO, Kevin Desmond. He asked if we might meet, which I was very pleased to agree to. The meeting, which took place in his office, lasted an hour and it very quickly became clear to me that TransLink’s new hire is a breath of fresh air.
Mr. Desmond has an open mind. He listened carefully and took notes throughout our meeting. Just a few days later he phoned and let me know that he had agreed to points 1 and 2 I outlined above. He also proposed the creation of a TransLink-appointed committee that would include representatives from the HandyDART community. This committee would oversee points 1 and 2.
I am returning to meet with the TransLink board Thursday, June 23. This time I won’t be asking. I will be complimenting!